Ahoy, Baby!

Bruce McArthur Marketing, Sailboat, Sailing

The 2010 US Sailboat show in Annapolis was outstanding. The weather was more like July than October. Blue skies with puffy whites,  a whisper of a breeze and everywhere you looked, visual overload. And we mean that in the good sense.

The crowd was huge, the biggest in years. Some attribute it the Dow topping 11,000 the previous week. Could be.

Technology rockets forward, and the sailor won’t be left behind. From sat phones to friction-beating waxes to computer-designed hulls and rigging, here was the latest and greatest of things nautical, all for your seafaring pleasure. The marketing of these wares was equally impressive.  Brochures and beer cozies and gimme caps and thousands of logo-plastered pennants flapping high above each craft, beckoning shoppers to climb aboard and … what? The short answer is purchase a boat. But what they’re really buying is a dream, the fulfillment of which is only available through sailing.

Like no other endeavor, sailing feeds three primordial needs: freedom, adventure and self-reliance. You are un-tethered. No need to refuel.  And who knows what challenge lurks beyond the horizon – or the next swell? Contrast those thrilling elements with the guy in his land-yacht RV, grid-locked on hot asphalt or dumping his black water into one of those fragrant campground sewers.

Marketing at the show is mostly point-of-purchase. People have been trying to improve and fine-tune point-of-purchase since the Pharaohs, with  everything from coupons to seizure-inducing strobe lights.

But smart vendors know their buyers and what really grabs their fancy. Sailors are overwhelmingly male. What grabs them,  hmmm?

Wandering the show, we encountered two log-jams of humanity. Both were generated by the primordial need…babeage.

This enthralling femme was helping to market a type of coaster that keeps your beverage where you want it, even in a force 5. She was a navigational hazard, as it took several minutes to diffuse through the throng of gawkers. Her strategically placed (stick on, we surmise) anchor tattoo authenticated her credentials as a mariner.

There was another bottle-neck near a 60-foot Gunboat catamaran. Surely, it was an interesting vessel. Curiosity for the boat was heightened exponentially by the blond and brunette in matching t-shirts and short-shorts, helping guys twice their bodyweight up the companionway.

Here’s a look at the chestnut-haired siren and her adoring fans. 

That… is smart point-of-purchase marketing, folks.

We’ll return with a report on the Power Boat show next week.

L.B.